Yesterday, I gave a talk to a business group on semantic search. After it was over one of the participants came up and asked fro my business card. Now, I haven't used a business card since 2009. When I gave up using them back then the reasons that prompted me to do so were:
1. Collecting business cards was fast becoming the metric of success for networking. It took away from any meaningful relationship building and became a game in itself with some business networkers comparing stack size of business cards collected at the end of a meeting (I kid you not).
2. Business cards were often collected on the off-chance that they come in handy rather than a real intent to follow up later.
3. Information on business cards often went out of date. A year later almost half of the ones I would have stacked, in the past, in a special folder, would have to be thrown out and I would have to find new contacts to replace them.
4. Presenting someone with a business card often struck me as weird and a little intrusive. They, after all, could not refuse taking it without appearing to be rude.
So, what do I do instead? Usually I just say "Google me". Those who feel will benefit from my services can then find out everything they need about me to make a decision. Through the web they can also find out the most up-to-date way to reach me.
This, of course, changes other things too. First, it makes sure that my online and offline worlds are synchronised, linked and up-to-date.
Second, it means that I cannot think of my online existence as separate from my offline one.
Third, it now make sit imperative that I completely understand the importance of online content, how search works in relation to it and what the data I put on the web is designed to do.
Fourth, it becomes a filter for me. Those who are really serious about getting in touch will have thought about what they want before they send me the first email.
What I have discovered is that by working this way I create better, more lasting relationships with the people interested in my services. I no longer have to have a 'sales pitch' ready. Whether it's a magazine or website editor wanting to hire me, a company that needs me to talk to their executives or a conference looking for a keynote speaker, they come with a clear understanding of what I do and how I do it.
This also changes the relationship with prospective clients, entirely. Free from having to convince them that they need my services I can now focus on how to deliver the best value possible for them, when they ask me to help them. It makes my work way more satisfying. It makes the job of those who hire me easier. It allows me to deliver real value at every point.
Getting rid of business cards, for me, was symbolic. It signalled an end on traditional marketing (and thinking) and a search for new ways to do things.
Google search has become the only business card I need.